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Partial Vote Count in Egypt Reveals Deep Rifts Among Public

May 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to Egypt, where the vote count from round one of the presidential elections reveals deep rifts among the public. Preliminary results showed the two most-polarizing candidates for president might very well face each other in a mid-June runoff. That would set up a battle between the secular, military-backed elite that’s ruled Egypt for decades and the Islamist forces it long suppressed.

The leading vote-getter appeared to be the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, with roughly 25 percent. The Brotherhood was banned in Egypt until last February’s revolution toppled Hosni Mubarak. It dominated parliamentary elections late last year. Neck and neck with Morsi in the voting was Mubarak’s final prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

The former general promised a return to law and order amid a cresting crime wave.

On Cairo streets today, the stark divisions were clear.

AHMED IBRAHIM, Egypt (through translator): Morsi is a religious man, not corrupted, and this is what we need.

DALAL ANWAR, Egypt (through translator): I am very upset with the results. I don’t want an Islamist for president, and if there is a runoff, I will vote for Shafiq.

JEFFREY BROWN: In third place for now, just behind Shafiq, sat Hamdeen Sabahi, a socialist whose candidacy attracted liberal and leftist voters.

ADHAM EL KAMOUNY, Egypt (through translator): Hamdeen Sabahi is like what he says. He is one of us. He is not considered an Islamist or from the former Mubarak regime. He is just an Egyptian.

JEFFREY BROWN: Largely left out of the bidding was the fractious liberal contingent that fomented revolution in early 2011. It didn’t coalesce behind one candidate, splitting its vote among several.

Two men who had recently shared frontrunner status with Morsi appeared well behind. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh’s liberal Islamist candidacy had attracted voters seeking to blunt the Muslim Brotherhood’s political force. And Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab league secretary-general, finished with a small percentage of the vote.

The runoff election is scheduled for the weekend of June 16 and 17, with a winner declared June 21.